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Monday, July 14, 2008


Madagascar, larger than California and about size the size of Texas or France, is the world's fourth largest island. Isolated in the Indian Ocean off the coast of southern Africa, about 70% of the estimated 250,000 species found on the island exist nowhere else on the globe. The island is home to such evolutionary oddities as lemurs, a group of primates endemic to the island; brilliantly colored lizards including geckos and chameleons; tenrecs, spiny hedgehog-like creatures; and the fossa, a carnivorous animal that looks like a cross between a puma and a dog but is closely related to the mongoose.

Beaches and diving destinations

Nosy Be Archipelago
These tropical islands off the northwest coast have some of the region's finest beaches. Most accessible on Nosy Be is Andilana, the northernmost beach. Don't miss the day trip to beautiful, reef-ringed Nosy Tanikely, a marine reserve with a lovely, sunny beach. Nosy Komba has a good, small beach near Ampangorinana village; and quiet, unspoiled coves in the south of the island. There are real gems further afield on Nosy Iranja ("the turtles island") and in the Mitsio Isles.

Ile Sainte Marie
Along the west coast, there are a number of secluded, palm-lined coves, off which to swim and snorkel and there is a stunning beach on the offshore islet of Ile Aux Nattes. The orchids are at their peak in September and the whales' migration takes place between July and October.

Ifaty has a pleasant beach and easy access to the spiny desert. The beach is at its best in front of the hotels Bamboo Club and Vovo Telo. The coral reefs attract scuba divers and there is an good PADI diving centre, but the coral is in very poor condition, mostly due to the effects of El Nino.

Anakao & Nosy Ve
Anakao is a traditional Vezo fishing village on the southwest coast of Madagascar, about 35 km south of Toliara (Tuléar). Its isolation has protected it from most tourism and it remains fairly unspoiled. Among Madagascar aficionados, Anakao is known for its long white beach lined with an armada of brightly painted pirogues; its turquoise lagoon, with tints of emerals; its fishing, diving and surfing ('Flamball').
Sadly, its once-superb snorkelling is a thing of the past, now that bleaching has reduced the shallow reef to a vista of dead coral. The traditional practice of hunting for sea cucumbers and octopus has caused further damage; and its growth, fuelled by demand from the Far East, is placing intolerable pressure on the marine environment. Purchasing items made by the local women provides them with an alternative source of income.
A short walk south of Anakao will lead you to some tombs, and then to a peninsula on which fragments of Aepyornis eggshells can still be found (It is illegal to take them out of Madagascar.). A visit to the weekly market is another pleasure of a stay in Anakao.
Most people enjoy being on a tiny desert island. Three km west of Anakao, the island of Nosy Ve, with its superb white beach, reefs and breeding colony of tropic-birds, makes a lovely day-trip. In addition to the Red-tailed tropic-birds, birders should encounter a variety of terns, and, with luck, Crab plovers and the White-tailed tropic-birds.

MorondavaThe Morondava seafront has a wide, white sandy beach off which it is safe to swim. It is at its best in the vicinity of Hotel Chez Maggie.

Island HoppingSail the Indian Ocean on board a luxury private yacht, mooring at inhabited and uninhabited islands in the Nosy Be Archipelago and the remote Mitsio Isles.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Italian Beaches

The Mediterranean hosts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Italy's beach resorts attract more and more tourists year after year, for it is said the Italian beaches are like treasures to discover and behold. The beach resorts were home to many tourists during the summer season, today many now claim this their year round home. The wonders of sea air provide some of the healthiest fresh air, known for their regenerative properties; the sea air is a relief and a healthy escape from city life.

Italy is a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia. Its 7,600 km of coastline have some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, the Ligurian Sea, the Sardinian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the west the Sicilian Sea, and the Ionian Sea in the south and the Adriatic Sea in the east.

After exploring the cities, touring the lakes and walking in the mountains, the beaches are the perfect place to relax, unwind and reflect. Most of the year the beaches are sunny, and with 7,600 miles of shoreline bordering Italy and its islands, you can easily find waters where the temperatures are ideal for swimming. Miles upon miles of golden, sun drenched sand, in some places up to 1 km deep. The sea welcomes the sun seeker in comfort and style. An array of colours, which one can quickly identify by the rows of neatly laid out sun umbrellas and deck chairs, which seem to almost dot the entire seashore.

The Blue Flag

104 Italian beaches have been awarded with a Blue Flag in 2008. This award is given to the beaches that offer cleanliness and safe bathing areas. The Blue Flag is an exclusive eco-label awarded to over 2672 beaches and 640 marinas in 36 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, New Zealand, Canada and the Caribbean in 2007.
The Blue Flag Campaign is owned and run by the independent non-profit organization Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). The Blue Flag works towards sustainable development at beaches and marinas through strict criteria dealing with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management and safety and other important services.

Martinsicuro, Alba Adriatica, Tortoreto, Giulianova-lungomare nord e lido Zara, Roseto degli Abruzzi, Pineto-Scerne/Villa Fumosa-Villa Ardente/Torre Cerrano; Silvi arenile sud-L.mare Cerrano (Teramo); Francavilla al Mare, San Vito Chietino-Calata Turchino-Molo sud; Rocca San Giovanni, Fossacesia, Vasto-Marina e Punta Penna, San Salvo-L.mare Colombo (Chieti)

Rodi Garganico, Mattinata (Foggia); Polignano a Mare (Bari); Ostuni (Brindisi); Ginosa (Taranto)

Maratea (Potenza)

Cirò Marina (Crotone); Roccella Jonica, Marina di Gioiosa Jonica (Reggio Calabria)

Massa Lubrense (Napoli); Positano, Agropoli-Trentova-San Marco, Castellabate, Montecorice/Agnone-Agnone-Capitello, Acciaroli-Pioppi di Pollica, Ascea-Marina Velia-Petroso/Scogliera, Pisciotta-La Gabella-Pietracciaio Acquabianca, Centola-Palinuro-Baia della Molpa, Vibonati-Villammare, Sapri (Salerno)

Comacchio (Ferrara); Lidi Ravennati, Cervia (Ravenna); Cesenatico, San Mauro Pascoli (Forlì-Cesena); Rimini, Misano Adriatico, Cattolica (Rimini)

Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Grado (Gorizia); Lignano Sabbiadoro (Udine)

Sabaudia, Sperlonga, Gaeta (Latina)

Camporosso, Bordighera (Imperia); Finale Ligure, Noli, Spotorno, Bergeggi, Albisola Superiore, Albissola Marina, Celle Ligure, Varazze (Savona); Chiavari, Lavagna, Moneglia (Genova); Lerici (La Spezia)

Gabicce Mare, Pesaro-Lido di Ponente e di Levante, Fano nord-Sassonia/Torrette-Marotta (Pesaro-Urbino); Senigallia, Sirolo, Numana Alta e Bassa (Ancona); Porto Recanati-Scossicci, Civitanova Marche, Potenza Picena (Macerata); Porto S.Elpidio; Fermo-Lido/Casablanca-Marina Palmense, Porto San Giorgio, Grottammare-lungomare nord e sud, Cupra Marittima, San Benedetto del Tronto (Ascoli Piceno)

Termoli, Campomarino (Campobasso)

Piedmont (lakes)
Cannero Riviera (Verbania)

Santa Teresa di Gallura-Rena Bianca, La Maddalena-Spalmatore (Olbia-Tempio)

Pozzallo (Ragusa); Menfi (Agrigento); Fiumefreddo di Sicilia (Catania); Marsala (Trapani)

Forte dei Marmi, Camaiore, Viareggio (Lucca); Pisa-Marina di Pisa-Tirrenia-Calambrone; Livorno-Antignano e Quercianella, Castiglioncello e Vada di Rosignano Marittimo, Cecina-Gorette e Marina di Cecina, Marina di Bibbona, Castagneto Carducci, San Vincenzo, Riotorto-Piombino: parco naturale della Sterpaia (Livorno); Follonica, Castiglione della Pescaia, Marina e Principina di Grosseto, Monte Argentario (Grosseto)

Caorle, San Michele al Tagliamento-Bibione, Eraclea, Jesolo, Cavallino Treporti (Venezia)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Puerto Rico - The Best Beaches

The Best Beaches
White sandy beaches put Puerto Rico and its offshore islands on tourist maps in the first place. Many other Caribbean destinations have only jagged coral outcroppings or black volcanic-sand beaches that get very hot in the noonday sun.

Best for Singles (Straight & Gay):

Sandwiched between the Condado and Isla Verde beaches along San Juan's beachfront, Ocean Park Beach attracts more adults and less of the family trade. Only Isla Verde beach to the east matches Ocean Park for its broad beach and good swimming. The people-watching here is nothing compared to the well-stuffed bikinis (both male and female) found on South Miami Beach or Rio de Janeiro. However, for the Caribbean, Ocean Park is as good as it gets. Because many gay boarding houses lie in Ocean Park, a lot of the beach here is frequented by gay young men, mainly from New York. However, straight people looking to meet someone while wearing swimwear will find plenty of lookers (and perhaps takers).

Best Beach for Families:

Winning without contest, Luquillo Beach, 30 miles (48km) east of San Juan, attracts both local families, mainly from San Juan, and visitors from Condado and Isla Verde beaches in San Juan. Beach buffs heading for Luquillo know they will get better sands and clearer waters there than in San Juan. The vast sandy beach opens onto a crescent-shaped bay edged by a coconut grove. Coral reefs protect the crystal-clear lagoon from the often rough Atlantic waters that can buffet the northern coast, making Luquillo a good place for young children to swim. Much photographed because of its white sands, Luquillo also has tent sites and other facilities, including picnic areas with changing rooms, lockers, and showers.

Best for Teenagers:

More families with teenagers check into the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Country Club west of San Juan than into any other competitor in Puerto Rico, including the resorts along the San Juan beach strip. Six beaches border the Hyatt resorts, each a strip of white sand fronting the north coast. Because the Dorado features many activities for kids of all ages, its beaches over the years have become family favorites. The Hyatt beaches originally opened onto a grapefruit-and-coconut plantation, but today these 1,000 landscaped acres (400 hectares) are devoted to fun, ranging from jogging and biking trails to swimming in the longest pool on the island. Young people find it easy to meet other teenagers here, not only on the beach but while participating in the resorts' myriad of activities.

Best for Swimming:

Whereas on much of the northwest coast of Puerto Rico, rough Atlantic waters often deter bathers but attract surfers , the south coast waters are calmer. On the south coast, Playa de Ponce, outside Ponce, Puerto Rico's second-largest city, consists of a long strip of beautiful white sand that opens onto the tranquil waters of the Caribbean. Less crowded than Condado and Luquillo, Playa de Ponce is an ideal place to swim year-round in clearer, less polluted waters than those along the more heavily populated northern coastline.

Best for Scenery:

In the southwestern corner of Puerto Rico, Boquerón Beach lies in a section of the island called the Cape Cod of Puerto Rico. The beach town of Boquerón itself, filled with colorful scenery, stands at the heart of a 3-mile (5km) bay, with palm-fringed white sand curving away on both sides. In addition to this panoramic vista, you can also sample vignettes of local life. Fisherfolk, sailors, and scuba divers are also attracted to this beach, where fresh oysters are shucked on the spot, doused with Tabasco, and sold at various ramshackle shacks. You can see that there are plenty of interesting photo ops at this beach. While enjoying the scenery and the sands, you can take a break and order a regional ice cream at one of the stands. It's made with sweet corn and dusted with paprika. Sound awful? Try it: It's good.

Best for Windsurfing:

Rincón's winter surf, especially at Playa Higüero, puts Malibu to shame. Today surfers from all over the world are attracted to Rincón, which they have dubbed "Little Malibu." From Borinquén Point south to Rincón, nearly all the beaches along the western coast are ideal for surfing from November to April. As the windsurfing capital of the Caribbean, the Rincón area was put on the map when it was the site of the 1968 world surfing championships. Some of the 16-foot (4.8m) breakers here equal those on the north shore of Oahu.

Best Beaches for Being Alone:

The main island is filled with isolated sandy coves that only the locals seem to know about. The best, all guaranteed to delight the escapist in you, stretch between Cabo Rojo (the southwesterly tip of Puerto Rico) all the way east to Ponce. Beginning in the west, directly east of Cabo Rojo, you'll discover Rosado Beach, Santa Beach, Caña Gorda Beach, and Tamarindo Beach. Access to many of these is limited because of poor roads, but the effort is worth it. Be sure to bring the necessary supplies.

Best for Snorkeling:

For snorkeling, we prefer to escape from the Puerto Rican mainland altogether, heading for the isolated beaches of the offshore islands of Vieques and Culebra, part of the Spanish Virgin Islands. In Vieques alone there are some 40 beaches, most of them officially unnamed even though U.S. sailors once stationed on the island have nicknamed their favorites-everything from Green Beach to Orchid. The best beach for snorkeling on Vieques is Playa Esperanza, especially that spot in front of the Trade Winds Guesthouse. Another favorite location, which we discovered when directed there by a Navy SEAL, is across the little harbor at Cayo de Afuera. This site gives you the best preview of dramatic (and living) antler coral. Nurse sharks and the occasional manatee also hang out here.

On the neighboring island of Culebra, the beaches are less visited by snorkelers, even though they open onto coral reefs and clear waters. The snorkeling is not so hot at the island's most frequented beach, Flamenco Beach. But all you have to do is take a 15- to 20-minute hike from the parking lot at Flamenco over the hill to Playa Carlos Rosario, which offers some of the best snorkeling in Puerto Rico. A barrier reef virtually envelops the beach, and you can snorkel all day. For other great snorkeling, you can walk along the cliffs south of here for about a quarter mile (.4km) to a place called "The Wall," which has 40-foot (12m) drop-offs, rainbow-hued fish, and other delights.

The Best Hotel Beaches

Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino

(San Juan; tel. 800/WYNDHAM or 787/791-1000): This posh resort occupies the choicest beachfront real estate at Isla Verde Beach, one of the finest in Puerto Rico. Ideal for swimming, the golden sands near the airport evoke South Miami Beach. Picnic tables are found here, and the beach is also good for snorkeling. But it is mostly the sands themselves that provide the attraction-that and all the many facilities of El San Juan resort itself.

Hyatt Resort at Dorado

(Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Country Club; tel. 800/233-1234 or 787/796-1234): Lying 18 miles (29km) west of San Juan, this posh resort was carved out of a plantation. Today it opens onto several miles of white sandy beaches at the mouth of the Río de la Plata. Since the turn of the 20th century, Dorado, which means "golden," has attracted U.S. presidents and rich folks like the Rockefellers. Today families can be seen romping along its sands.

Copamarina Beach Resort

(Caña Gorda; tel. 787/821-0505) lies west of Ponce, Puerto Rico's second-largest city. A laid-back retreat, the resort opens onto one of the best and least crowded beaches in southwestern Puerto Rico. This appealing beach is set a quarter mile (.4km) south of Guánica at the edge of a government-protected marshland known for its rich bird life. Its pale beige sand fronts a backdrop of bohios (thatched huts), where you can retreat from the noonday sun.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Beaches of Turkey

Turkey Beaches are best May-Oct, though the water is still a little chilly up to June. Beware crowds July-Aug.They are often pebbly or hot sand so swimming shoes are useful.None of them are worth travelling for specifically, except the first two and last one.Turkish beaches [in fact Mediterranean beaches in general] are not truly comparable with those of the Caribbean or Pacific - the water is cooler and the sand generally coarser, or even pebbles. Pretty, shady, palm tree fringes are also rare, though hot sunshine, friendly locals and low prices are almost guarenteed.Going topless is not a problem.

Patara Beach -
Rated as the best beach in the world by The Sunday Times. With all due respect to a great newspaper, Pah! Patara may be the best in the Mediterranean but it can't compare with tropical beaches. However it is 14.2 kms/9miles long [the longest beach in the Mediterranean] of child-friendly shore - medium grain brown sand - backed only by ancient ruins and swooping dunes - with no buildings visible save a small café at one end. Loungers and umbrellas available for rent but no watersports or camping. The area is inexpensive and there's a limited selection of low-key accommodation in nearby Patara town, with beach commuter transport or a longish walk. Alternatively day trip in from Kalkan/Kas. 50 miles from Fethiye.

Olu Deniz Beach, near Fethiye -
Olu Deniz is a picturesque resort area, especially the main hillside town of Belcekiz, which has crystal clear water, and a long shingle beach curving away from the town promenade along to a calm blue lagoon. In addition to good value hotels - usually with pools - in Olu Deniz town, there are some popular resort villages nearby, such as Ovacik and Hisaronu [10 mins], which means that the beach can get overcrowded. The promenade by the town has plenty of bars, restaurants and cafés and there are loads of umbrellas and loungers for hire, and a wide range of water sports available. Paragliding and Hangliding, solo or tandem, off adjacent Babadag mountain and landing on the beach are extremely popular, as is scuba diving. Locals claim the season is all year round. Summer temperature averages 32C, winter 20C. 1hr 45 mins from Dalaman Airport.
Gemile Bay Beach, near FethiyeIf Olu Deniz is too commercial for you, try the secluded beach in Gemile Bay. Gemile Bay Beach is a unspoiled, picturesque cove with a great view of St. Nicholas island [you can swim or take a boat across to see the ruins].

Turtle [Iztuzu] Beach, Dalyan -
Reached by boat, Turtle Beach [also known as Iztuzu Beach], a sandbar of the Dalyan Delta, is a national conservation area and one of the last breeding places in Europe for the protected loggerhead 'Cretta' sea turtle. It's several kilometres long, with very scenic surroundings, hot brown sand, and shallow water. A small café, sun loungers and umbrellas available. Accessible mainly by an enjoyable 20min public boat ride from pleasant, relaxed Dalyan town. Dalyan has a gorgeous river frontage looking across to Lycian tombs carved into the rock face. Twitcher alert! Swamp bugs can be irritating to humans but delicious to avians, so lots of bird life here, especially swallows. Other excursions from Dalyan are mud bathing in the local hot mineral springs or swimming in nearby Lake Koycegiz. 30 mins from Dalaman Airport.

Çalis Beach, near Fethiye

Çalis Beach is informal, relaxing, and excellent for watersports or a family holiday. The coarse sand stretches for 2.5 miles, bordered by a pedestrianized road with fairly characterless hotels, cafes and restaurants along the water front. 4 miles from Fethiye. 1 hrs 10 mins from Dalaman Airport.

Kaputas Beach, near Kalkan & KasKaputas is a mountain gorge with a small shingle cove beach under a bridge crossing the gorge, with a steep set of steps up/down to the beach,and a steep drop off into the clear blue sea. It's a 10 minute dolmus [bus] ride from the hill village of Kalkan, a harbour town with colourful restaurants and terraced bars overlooking the not particularly attractive marina. Kalkan has it's own small shingle beach too - More sophisticated than most Turkish resorts. 2.5 hrs from Dalaman Airport.


There are no beaches in Kas, but it's a really lovely, relaxed hill/harbour town with no package tourists in evidence and easy access to little beaches a few minutes away by public bus on the gorgeous winding coast road. Plenty of little hotels and interesting Turkish restaurants. An hour from Kalkan.

Ladies Beach and Kustur Beach,

Kusadasi Kusadasi's most famous beach is Ladies Beach, just south of the town centre, backed by a promenade with plenty of eating and drinking establishments. It's a narrow, brown sand beach with loungers and umbrellas available for rent. Kustur Beach, 4 miles north of the town, is less crowded and more tranquil. 1hr 15 mins from Adnan Menderes Airport, 1.5 hrs from Izmir.

Içmeler Beach

Marmaris BayIçmeler is in the bay of Marmaris, surrounded by green hills and next to the Marmaris resort, home-away-from-home of beer belly and bad tatoo man. Içmeler is newer , smaller and marginally quieter than hideous Maramaris. Its beach is half a mile long, with a traffic free promenade stretching from Marmaris all way round the bay to Içmeler to help the beer bellies stagger home. Excellent facilities and amenities. 10 mins dolmus ride to Maramaris, 2 hrs 15 mins from Dalaman Airport. Maramaris has an award-winning PADI & BSAC dive centre.

Cleopatra's Beach,

AlanyaAlanya is one of the Turkey's largest resorts, with two good beaches, an historical site [old fortress], and great facilities. Cleopatra's Beach, on the western side of the peninsula, is one of the best known beaches. It's sandy, pleasant and more secluded than the other town beach on the eastern side. It is likely to be crowded with German and Scandinavian beer bellies in high summer. 2 hrs from Antalya Airport.

Side Beaches,

SideAnother classic Turkish seaside village/beach scenario, but popular with package holiday groups. Fine sandy beaches each side of the town and some ancient ruins. 1 hr from Antalya Airport.

Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus islandKyrenia [also known as Girne] is a harbour town, and one of the liveliest resorts of North Cyprus. It's located in a stunning coastline backed by mountains, with clear Mediterranean waters in front of it. Small villages sprawl along the coast on both sides of the town, but the coastline continues with golden sandy beaches and rocky coves, and the clean water is ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
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